CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County residents took part in a special Mass on Wednesday to mark the first of the 40-day Lenten season.
St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Crystal Lake marked the beginning of Lent with an Ash Wednesday ceremony where the congregation gathered to participate in ritual, communion and worship. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a 40-day period leading up to the Easter celebration.
“We begin it by reminding ourselves we are mortal,” Pastor Greg Lucas said. “For some people, it is fasting or giving up things, and looking at ourselves and taking an inventory. Are we the kind of people we want to be? This kicks the whole thing off.”
The ritual is a time to set intentions for the weeks to come, Lucas said. It’s important for people to take a moment to recognize that they won’t be alive forever.
“Society doesn’t like to talk about death,” he said. “We think it’s a good thing to remind ourselves of that because it makes life more precious in some ways.”
Self-reflection is a major component of the ceremony, he added.
“I think it’s important to every once in a while be honest with yourself,” he said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in routine.”
While some believers opt to fast or cut out certain pleasures during the 40 days of Lent, congregation member Marilyn McGuire said she wanted to instead add something to her faith life.
“I am going to try to be more connected with others,” she said. “We live such busy lives, the focus is going to be on making sure I make connections, build relationships up and share what I learn in my faith with people.”
McGuire added that it is important to her to mark the season because it is a time to reflect upon herself and her mistakes as she looks forward to the renewal that Easter represents.
Fellow congregation member Linda Ticknor said she agreed.
“This is a huge time of reflection for me,” she said. “It’s like a reset button. … It’s good to be here to do it and have the pastor serve us the way that he did.”